Groups urge Marcos admin to sustain economy, boost local agri production in first 100 days

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) – The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to focus on the quickening inflation rate and boosting local agriculture in his first three months in office.

PCCI President George Barcelon said the challenge for Marcos will be sustaining the economy in the first 100 days, adding that finding solutions will be a balancing act of the interests of businesses and workers. Barcelon cited ongoing global issues like the war between Russia and Ukraine, as some of the factors causing the rise in prices of petroleum products and basic goods.

“Itong topic natin na agriculture at inflation, itong mga bagay na ito ay kailangan nakatutok ang mga [These topics of agriculture and inflation, these are things that] economic managers (need to focus on). They have to really manage it sa foreseeable future nitong first 100 days. Kasi ‘yung [Because the] impact, we are already feeling it. Our concern is we need to have a sustainable economy,” Barcelon said in a virtual forum on Sunday.

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While Barcelon said there’s no magic formula to solving problems related to the economy, he cited government and private sector interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He referred to the recent proposal of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to grant a one-time P10,000 cash assistance to families.

“Kung may bridge na magawa natin [If there is a bridge we can create] in the first 100 days to sustain us, without any drastic increase in interest rates, cost of energy, let us buy time. In the first 100 days, hopefully itong [this] worldwide impact mabawasan [will lessen]. For the first 100 days, kung kaya natin ibigay [if we can provide], some finances to the poorest of the poor, we can buy time,” he added.

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Marcos vowed to work on the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in his inaugural speech. He said they are “presently drawing up a comprehensive all-inclusive plan for economic transformation.”

Boost local agri production over importation

While Marcos listed agriculture and food sufficiency among his top priorities, Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Montemayor said boosting local production should be the focus.

The former Agriculture Secretary lauded Marcos’ commitment to putting the sector first, evident in his decision to take on the department’s portfolio. Montemayor shared why having Marcos at the helm will lead to more opportunities for the agriculture sector.

“We have a mixed impact. Speaking of agriculture, I can see one potential positive effect is that makaka-encourage po ito ng pagluwas o sa pag-export natin ng ating mga agriculture products. Pagka mas lumaki po ating exports, bebenta po in terms of better profits, better income for our farmers,” he said in the forum.

[Translation: We have a mixed impact. Speaking of agriculture, I can see one potential positive effect is that it will encourage exportation of our agriculture products. If our exports increase, there will be more sales and better profits, better income for our farmers.]

Montemayor also said Marcos can encourage import substitution for products we are having trouble gaining access to, such as flour and wheat. He believes this will give our farmers and processors the opportunity to showcase their products.

Marcos earlier said he will prioritize boosting local production, but clarified that importation is still needed to keep prices low amid the imminent food crisis. Montemayor, however, believes importation should be the last resort if local production is not sufficient.

“Yung Department of Agriculture ba trabaho nila ‘yung importation ng bigas? Dapat concentrate sila on increasing domestic capacity. The focus of the DA should be support for domestic producers, not to be spokesmen for the finance managers,” he said.

[Translation: Is it the Department of Agriculture’s job to import rice? They should focus on increasing domestic capacity, not to be spokesmen for the finance managers.]

RELATED: Bongbong Marcos: Food sufficiency, infrastructure among priorities of 'comprehensive' economic plan 

Barcelon said investing in local agriculture may pave the way for economic growth. He believes it’s crucial to strike a balance between importation and improving the sector by investing in technology to make local production efficient.

“We have to really invest in the agri sector. We need to get ‘yung kabataan [the youth] to be interested in agriculture… Ang [the] agri (sector) to be honest, hindi naman ganun kabilis, eh [it’s not a fast-growing industry]. It’s very challenging. It’s a sector that has good potential but you have to have good technology and the support of the government, the infrastructure,” he said.

Montemayor hopes Marcos will crack down on smuggling in the agriculture sector and immediately prosecute those involved. He highlighted the need for better border facilities to help prevent smuggling and the entry of diseases in the country. Montemayor urged government to tighten inspection for imported products, similar to the strict screening for local products.